Federal National Mortgage Association

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Federal National Mortgage Association

Federal National Mortgage Association (FMNA), commonly known as Fannie Mae, government-sponsored enterprise that is the largest purchaser and guarantor of home mortgages in the country. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., Fannie Mae buys mortgages from such lenders as banks and savings and loans, packages them, and resells them on the open market, thus creating fluidity and lessening lenders' risk. Fannie Mae's creation of this secondary mortgage market enables low- and middle-income individuals and families to obtain mortgages and purchase homes. The corporation was founded (1938) by the federal government to buy and sell mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration or guaranteed by the Veterans Administration (now the Veterans Affairs Dept.). Rechartered in 1954, it was privatized in 1968. That year also marked the establishment of a federally owned sister corporation, the Government National Mortgage Association (GNMA), or Ginnie Mae, which is administered by the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development and helps to finance public housing. Fannie Mae's corporate credibility was damaged by revelations (2004) that it manipulated its earnings from 1998 to 2004, in part to maximize bonus payments to its corporate executives. Problems in the housing and mortgage industry that began in 2007 led in 2008 to increasing losses at—and concern about a possible bankruptcy of—Fannie Mae and especially Freddie Mac (the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation), and resulted in the two mortgage guarantors being placed under the conservatorship of Federal Housing Finance Agency.

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